County utility bills in Independence may soon be going down as solar arrays go up on the County Administrative Center, the Historic Court, Jail and Juvenile Detention Facility.
County leaders tentatively approved a $3.3 million contract with Solar City Corporation for a 612.8 kilowatt photovoltaic electric system for the county buildings in Independence last week.
The county is currently in the process of applying for a $1.8 million rebate through the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. If the LADWP chooses not to approve the rebate application within 60 days, the county has the option of backing out of the contract.
County Administrator Kevin Carunchio said the project is feasible for the county as long as it receives the rebate from the LADWP.
He added that if the county does receive the rebate from LADWP and the system goes up, the county will save money on utility costs.
“We could just let the system pay for itself without any cost to the taxpayers,” he said.
Fourth District Supervisor Marty Forntey said that he was not entirely comfortable approving the project if its success is dependent on a rebate the county is not even sure it will receive. Nevertheless, he said he was willing to move forward because the county negotiated the 60-day out in case the rebate does not materialize.
Fifth District Supervisor Richard Cervantes said, “the only way to make a project like this work is to rely on the rebate.”
Cervantes added that the LADWP has set goals to have a certain percentage of its utilities operation off renewable energy by 2012, and the county project would help meet that goal.
He said he sees no reason for the LADWP to reject the rebate application.
If the county does receive the rebate, it will enter into a 20-year financing agreement.
“After debt-service payments, the project is expected to generate a cost savings totaling over $2.4 million over a 25-year period,” Carunchio said.
According to a staff report, the solar panels that will be installed in Independence have a wind rating of up to 110 miles per hour, and useful life of between 35 and 40 years.
Due to a lack of space near the buildings, all panels will be constructed on the roofs of the four county facilities, including the courthouse annex building.
Construction of the solar arrays can begin once the LADWP signs off on the rebate.
“The wheels of government move slowly, and LADWP moves slower than that,” Fortney said, adding that he hopes the utility will expedite the rebate, as it will help the LADWP meet its renewable goals and help the county save cash.